On 7 February 2017, the Maltese Presidency reached a provisional agreement with European Parliament representatives to remove barriers to cross-border portability of online content services in the internal market.
The proposal for a “Regulation on cross-border portability of online content services in the internal market” is one of the initiatives related to the Digital Single Market Initiative (DSM), one of the European Commission’s priorities in the current period. It aims to “allow consumers who have subscribed or bought online content services in their home country to access it when temporarily present in another country within the EU.” As other initiatives related to the DSM, such as the copyright reform, cross-border portability could potentially have a negative impact on the system of territorial licensing common for sport broadcasting rights, if it would allow citizens easy access to foreign broadcasts. The verification of a citizen’s home country and a clear definition of a “temporary stay” are therefore important aspects of the regulation.
The agreement will apply to content service providers providing against payment, while providers of free services, like public broadcasters, will be able to opt-in to the Regulation, if they verify their clients’ country of residence. Verification will be on the basis of information such as payment details, payment of a licence fee for broadcasting services, the existence of a contract for internet or telephone connection, IP checks or the subscriber's declaration about his or her address. The service provider will be able to apply up to two means of verification from the list included in the Regulation. The agreement does however not restrict the definition of a “temporary stay” in any way.
The agreed text must now be formally confirmed by the Council of the EU and the European Parliament. Once adopted, the rules will become applicable in all EU Member States by beginning of 2018 as the Regulation grants providers and right holders a 9 month period to prepare for the application of the new rules.